My father died yesterday. It was sudden and unexpected, and I’m still having trouble wrapping my head and heart around it. To understand I won’t be able to call him on the phone and see if he’s over his interminable cold. Or if the sweater I sent him fits, or the pears were good, or the candy something he liked. He’ll never see my next novel or know about the new car we just bought. We won’t get to laugh at his “Now who does she belong to?” as he confuses his great-grandchildren, or discuss the latest book he read or some movie we’ve both seen. I’ll never again hear about my mother from someone who loved her more than life. That bothers me more than anything else, I think.
My brother said things feel weird to him. Things feel weird to me, too. Like it’s not real but instead is only a part of the nightmare I had last night. Except I keep slamming up against it at odd moments, and then it feels real as hell and it hurts. I keep hoping that my mother doesn’t know what’s happened. That she’s forgotten every day for the past two years when at ten a.m., my father would walk across the road to visit her in the unit where people with dementia live. I wonder if she’ll notice that he doesn’t come to see her anymore. I pray she doesn’t, or that if she does, it’s a brief thought only as long as those misfiring synapses in her brain. Yet a part of me, a selfish part, wants her to know, to acknowledge. To mourn so that I can mourn with her. I want her comfort more than anything right now.
I’ve always carried the people I love within my heart, each of them fitting into the whole like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Some of those are larger than life, some small but infinitely sweet, like a drop of honey on the tongue. All are precious and all leave a void when they are removed. I know that void will not be there forever. The memories will come, and they’ll get tucked into the space where he lived for so long. But his puzzle piece was a huge one and has been with me from the minute I was born, when he and my mother were the only two nestled in my heart. It will be a long, long time before there are enough memories to even begin to fill up the boundaries of his shape.